WATERFORD -- It took Waterford High School seniors Brooke Smith, Josielynn Stice and Serenity Dickenson about two months to design and build a contraption with dozens of parts such as funnels, scissors, tubes and pulleys that requires 32 steps to perform one simple task: to hammer a nail.
But this complicated, convoluted and comical machine performs another function. The three girls entered it in Waterford High's ninth annual Rube Goldberg Machine Competition last month and took home first place.
The victory means the girls will compete March 16 in the National High School Rube Goldberg Machine Contest at Waukesha County Technical College in Pawaukee, Wis. They will be up against about 18 other high school teams.
Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, sculptor, writer, engineer and inventor. The contest that bears his name celebrates complicated machines that perform simple tasks.
"This is basically an engineering competition," said Waterford High physics teacher Janet Brownell.
But the girls say they learned plenty of soft skills as they teamed to build their contraption.
Brooke said she learned that a design that looks good on paper don't always translate into a working machine.
"It was so frustrating," she said. "Every step had to be changed."
Her career goal is to become a large-animal veterinarian.
Josielynn said she and the two other girls became better friends. She also gained valuable insight into group dynamics. That will come in handy for Josielynn, who wants to be a high school English teacher.
Serenity said she learned how to work well with others and that she could not be in charge of everything.
"I tend to be a control freak," Serenity said while laughing.
She envisions herself after college as a 3-D animator for Pixar Animation Studios, whose films include "Toy Story," "Finding Nemo" and "Brave."
The girls get to go to Wisconsin because this year's Waterford High event was part of the national competition.
The trip will cost about $3,200, and the girls have raised about two-thirds of that. They and their supporters are holding a car wash from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Waterford High to raise money.
For more on the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, go to www.rubegoldberg.com.
Checks to help cover the cost of the girls' trip can be sent to Waterford High School ASB, 121 S. Reinway Ave., Waterford 95386. Write "Rube Goldberg" in the check's memo line.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.